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March 24, 2005

"Visual Studio Hacks": Tips and Tools for Turbocharging the IDE

Sebastopol, CA--"One thing Microsoft has always done is focus on the needs of developers, and providing them with high-quality tools has been a high priority from the beginning," asserts James Avery, author of Visual Studio Hacks (O'Reilly US $24.95). According to Avery, Visual Studio is one of the best development environments available, not just for the start-up templates and extensive online documents that allow new developers to be productive quickly, but also for the dozens of advanced, little used, and often undocumented capabilities that are there for experienced developers to discover.

"On top of Visual Studio's normal features are hosts of free add-ins, macros, and power toys that can further enhance its functionality," Avery explains. "Developers have come up with a ton of cool techniques. Trading Visual Studio tips and tricks has always been a favorite pastime of developers at conferences, in user groups, and at geek dinners. I wanted to capture those tools, add-ins, and extensions and compile them all together in one book."

Visual Studio Hacks documents one hundred ways to become more productive with the suite, from mastering projects and solutions for organizing files to customizing the suite's tools; from getting the most out of the debugger and writing code more efficiently to extending Visual Studio and working with tools that are not part of the normal IDE. In addition to covering features for Visual Studio .NET 2003, the book also covers Visual Studio 2005, which is now available in beta and due for official release later this year.

"This is not a beginner's guide to Visual Studio," Avery emphasizes. "It's for the practicing .NET developer who is constantly looking for a better way to use the suite for building Windows, web, and mobile device applications. It's for those who want to find a way to perform redundant tasks automatically, instead of retyping something one hundred times."

From the beginning, Avery wanted the book to be a valuable resource for these developers, and not just a collection of neat new things to do. "I could have written a book for the people who write add-ins, macros, and Visual Studio Industry Partner (VSIP) projects, which would have been a great deal of fun," he explains. "But it would have left ninety-nine percent of .NET developers in the dark. Instead, I decided to write a book with hacks that benefit developers of all types, not just those interested in extending Visual Studio."

In writing the book, Avery collected top-notch hacks from a dozen .NET experts around the world, including Scott Mitchell, author of O'Reilly's Designing Active Server Pages and editor of 4GuysFromRolla.com, a well-known ASP and ASP.NET resource web site, and Jamie Cansdale, author of TestDriven.NET, the most popular unit testing tool for Visual Studio. The resulting work includes beginner, moderate, and expert hacks organized into different chapters by subject, such as "Mastering the Editor" and "Navigating Visual Studio." Each hack stands on its own, so developers can either read the book from cover to cover or jump to sections of particular interest. With Visual Studio Hacks, developers will learn how to:

  • Take control of projects and solutions, including assembly references, project references, and ways to hack project and solution files
  • Master the editor and have it do more of their work through clipboard hacks, refactoring, and more
  • Learn smarter ways to navigate the suite as well as their own source code
  • Customize shortcut keys, toolbars, menus, the toolbox, and much more
  • Use the debugger successfully on source code, SQL, and scripting languages; extend the debugger with custom visualizers
  • Use the Server Explorer (one of the more neglected portions of Visual Studio) to interface with databases, services, and performance counters, as well as WMI
  • Use and create Visual Studio add-ins to extend its functionality
  • Write more robust code by applying unit testing, and share code through blogs and snippet respositories
  • Visual Studio Hacks joins a growing list of popular Hacks books from O'Reilly that cover tips and tricks for a wide range of topics, including (but not limited to) Google, Amazon, eBay, Linux, Mac OS X, BSD, digital photography, mapping, home theater, and astronomy. "Seeing how others approach systems and problems is often the quickest way to learn about a new technology," Avery says. "This book gives .NET developers one hundred ways to go beyond the usual capabilities of Visual Studio."

    Additional Resources:

    Visual Studio Hacks
    James Avery
    ISBN: 0-596-00847-3, 478 pages, $24.95 US, $34.95 CA
    order@oreilly.com
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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